Basil seeds are en­joy­ing a mo­ment – but how can I en­joy eat­ing them?

The Guardian - G2 - - Food - Tim Jonze

Flax, chia, hemp, pump­kin … you name a seed, I have prob­a­bly sprin­kled it on a bit of yo­ghurt in the hope of gain­ing eter­nal life. In a way, seeds are the ul­ti­mate food fad – you get into them ob­ses­sively for a while, soak­ing up the lit­er­a­ture that proudly flaunts their can­cer­fight­ing, stress-bust­ing, skin-im­prov­ing qual­i­ties. And then, af­ter a week or so, you lose in­ter­est – partly be­cause you have not wit­nessed any ev­i­dence that you are trans­form­ing into a dis­ease-re­sis­tant su­per­hu­man with a life ex­pectancy of 150 (in fact, you have a cold). But also be­cause, well, they don’t re­ally taste of much, do they?

The lat­est seeds to en­joy a mo­ment in the spot­light are basil seeds, which are pop­u­lar in south-east Asia where they are known as sabja seeds. You will of­ten find them mar­keted as the “new chia seeds” and also “the lat­est di­ges­tive hack”, which sounds frankly painful. A quick tour of the in­ter­net re­veals the fol­low­ing claimed ben­e­fits: weight loss, blood-sugar con­trol, flu pre­ven­tion, bloat­ing re­lief … and on and on. They re­port­edly have an­tiox­i­dant, an­tivi­ral, an­tibac­te­rial, an­ti­spas­modic and an­ti­fun­gal prop­er­ties, and can help with pso­ri­a­sis and eczema.

I was game, not just be­cause of the “eter­nal life” an­gle but also be­cause I read that they turn “gelati­nous when wet”, which sounds like a par­tic­u­larly dodgy hair metal al­bum. Sim­ply soak the tiny black seeds in water for a few min­utes and they de­velop a gloopy trans­par­ent force field. If you are plan­ning to eat them, it’s best not to think of frogspawn.

I test out my basil seeds in four dif­fer­ent ways. First, stirred into a cup of milky tea, in the hope that that the tapi­oca-like tex­ture trans­forms them into boba ( bub­ble) tea – in fact, the re­sult is just a cuppa with added slime. Next up, I try spoon­ing soaked seeds into fresh wa­ter­melon juice – a more suit­able pair­ing, per­haps, but still one that feels as if you are adding un­nec­es­sary pips to the drink.

Chang­ing tack, I make Meera Sodha’s de­li­cious beet­root and gin­ger soup, and re­place the nigella seeds with basil seeds (hey, they both con­tain the word “seed”). The soup is so thick and packed with flavour that the basil seeds are barely no­tice­able and that is fine with me.

Fi­nally, I ar­rive at a gen­uinely en­joy­able way to con­sume them. I heat a cup of co­conut milk, adding lime zest, a vanilla pod and two ta­ble­spoons of de­mer­ara sugar, then pour this mix­ture over a cou­ple of heaped ta­ble­spoons of basil seeds, leav­ing it to soak for a few min­utes be­fore stir­ring in a dol­lop of co­conut yo­ghurt. If you are still suc­ceed­ing with the whole “don’t think of frogspawn” thing then it is pretty good – a strange but rel­a­tively vir­tu­ous dessert op­tion that is gen­uinely tasty. And if it just so hap­pens to clear up your eczema and keep you alive into the next mil­lenia then that is an bonus.

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